October 24, 2005 That's right - it's not a mistake. Sebastien Loeb won every stage of the Rally of France of the weekend. The 2005 World Rally Championship has already seen Loeb and his Citroen set world records for most wins in one season and most consecutive wins, but Loeb’s latest effort has added a new and quite extraordinary record at the weekend's (21-23 October 2005) Rally of France: the first time one driver has set the fastest time on every single stage in a World Championship Rally! Loeb made no secret of the fact that with his second world title in the bag, he wanted to win his home (French) event for the first time and he did it in a crushing manner. So crushing that it's hard to imagine it ever being repeated.
With just two rounds to go before Citroen bows out of the sport and running a 2004 car against its rival's 2005 models, its adversaries had no answer to Loeb and the Citroen Xsara WRC, both which delivered a performance, in a notoriously tricky event and one which can bite back hard in response to the slightest error, that can only be described a complete domination.
"Everyone was expecting me to win in Corsica, so I had to do something a little different," joked Seb before continuing more seriously, "I really wanted to win here, not only because this is my home rally but also because I love the Corsican stages. I admit that at the beginning of the season the two objectives I set myself were to win in Finland and Corsica. Marcus [Grönholm] proved the man to beat in Finland, but like him I am very pleased to have won my home round, with a little touch of panache.
"What makes me even happier is having been able to share my joy with that of the Citroën team during this extraordinary season. They are a fantastic bunch, always very, very motivated. They really deserve this result, as well as a third Manufacturers' title and we will do our best to wrap that up next time out," said Loeb.
The win in Corsica further emphasises just how successful Loeb and Citroen have been over the last four years. Loeb is now the sixth most successful rally driver of all time, just 11 wins short of all-time leader, Carlos Sainz, after less than four years in the WRC. Corsica extended his world record for most wins in a season to nine and the number times in 2005 that he climbed the podium to 12.
The only fly in Citroën's ointment was the fact that although it extended its lead in the manufacturer's championship to 30 points, it wasn't enough to put the title chase beyond contention. Feeling unwell at the start of the day, Loeb's team mate François Duval tried to be cautious, but he lost concentration on stage nine on the final day, rolling his Xsara into retirement with a rear wheel and suspension departing company from his Citroën.
"I have mixed feelings at the end of this event," says Citroen Team boss Guy Fréquelin. Sébastien and Daniel once again lived up to the high expectations everyone had in them. But I am disappointed for François. He wasn't feeling very well this morning. I therefore suggested that he didn't try to catch Petter Solberg, and that he should even let Stéphane Sarrazin pass if he got close. He was totally free to slow if he wished. He now needs to put this behind him very quickly and refocus on the main objective which is still to win a third Manufacturers' title."
Final leaderboard of the Tour de Corse - Rallye de France
1. S. Loeb/D. Elena (Citroën Xsara) 3h35m46.7 s 2. T. Gardemeister/J. Honkanen (Ford Focus) +1m51.7s 3. P. Solberg/Ph. Mills (Subaru Impreza) + 2m42s 4. S. Sarrazin/D. Giraudet (Subaru Impreza) +3m34.2s 5. R. Kresta/J. Tománek (Ford Focus) + 5m21.5 s 6. A. Bengué/C. Escudero (koda Fabia) +5m27.8s 7. X. Pons/C. Del Barrio (Citroën Xsara Kronos ) +5m41.8s 8. N. Bernardi/J-M. Fortin (Peugeot 307) +6m32.1s 9. G. Galli/G. D'Amore (Mitsubishi Lancer) +6m37.8 s 10. H. Rovanperä/R. Pietlilainen (Mitsubishi Lancer) +9m22.5s
FIA World Rally Championship after round 14 - Manufacturers
1. Citroën, 160 pts - 2. Peugeot, 130 pts - 3. Ford, 93 pts - 4. Subaru, 89 pts - 5. Mitsubishi, 59 pts - 6. koda, 15 pts.
FIA World Rally Championship after round 14 - Drivers
1. S. Loeb, 117 points - 2. P. Solberg, 71 pts - 3. M. Grönholm, 71 pts - 4. T. Gardemeister, 58 pts - 5. M. Märtin, 53 pts - 6. H. Rovanperä, 31 pts - 7. F. Duval, 29 pts - 8. R. Kresta, 22 pts - 9. M. Stohl, 16 pts - 10. C. Sainz, 11 pts - 11. G. Galli, 11 pts - 12. H. Solberg, 9 pts - 13. Ch. Atkinson, 8 pts - 14. M. Hirvonen, 8 pts - 15. G. Panizzi, 7 pts - 16. S. Sarrazin, 6 pts - 17. D. Carlsson, 5 pts - 18. A. Warmbold, 4 pts - 19. X. Pons, 2 pts - 20. C. McRae, 2 pts - 21. M. Higgins, 1 pt - 22. J. Pykälistö et N. Bernardi, 1 pt.